Iowa City, IA – An Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday, December 21, 2012, that a dentist was within his rights to fire an assistant he found particularly striking. James Knight, D.D.S. and his wife felt it necessary to dismiss Melissa Nelson from the practice, arguing she was a potential threat to the health of their marriage.
On the principle of family values, Nelson was fired, even though she’d not directly made improper advances or suggestive sexual notions toward her boss. She was given a month’s severance. 32-year-old Nelson had worked for Knight for nearly 10 years. A lawsuit was filed contending gender discrimination.
There were no allegations of sexual harassment from either party mentioned in the lawsuit. However, prior to her dismissal, Nelson recalled 53-year-old Knight complaining about the figure-conformity of her clothing being especially distracting. Knight and Nelson, both married with children, would casually exchange text messages, and she valued him as something of a father figure. Nelson was blindsided with the termination. Knight’s wife, who also worked at the practice, insisted based on the text exchanges she found on her husband’s phone.
According to The Washington Post, bosses can now fire employees they see as an ‘irresistible attraction,’ even if the employees have not engaged in flirtatious or inappropriate behavior. These firings seem unfair, but they are not considered unlawful discrimination. Under the Iowa Civil Rights Act, they are motivated by feelings and emotions, not gender.
The court took into consideration that Knight had an all-female staff, and Nelson had been replaced by a female. Nelson argued that had she been a male, she would still be employed at the practice. Unfortunately, the all-male court ruled against her 7-0.
The Denver Post specified Dr. Knight simply dismissed Nelson solely to preserve his marriage. And although Nelson was not at fault for the firing, she was also not discriminated for being a woman. Nelson vehemently disagrees, feeling that women in general often cope with discrimination in the work place, having to tolerate harassment and bias, regardless of attractiveness.